Easy Freed woke up suddenly, the bullets in his dream stereo-echoing the ones thundering through his living room. He was being fired upon. Again.
He spiraled forward off the couch and rolled right below the window. He wasn’t sure still, if this was real or his recurring dream. To some it might be a nightmare, but if you live with terror every minute of your life, it just becomes your every-night bedfellow. They say you never die in your own dreams. That’s what they say.
Deep, cleansing breaths. Omm. Omm.
He vaulted up and made it to the bathroom unscratched. He looked at himself in the mirror, desperately, savagely; he looked into his bloodshot eyes, beset within his craggy face. He was nearly defeated, yet he had an unsnuffable fire in those eyes, the crests of flames burning in his belly, driving him on, harder and deeper.
Those bullets. Easy had a pretty good idea where they were coming from. The night before he had spent a few seconds screaming into a pay phone: “You tell that motherfucking pussy to come see me tomorrow. A real man takes care of his responsibilities. A punk-ass pussy runs away and hides. If he doesn’t come to my office tomorrow, I’m gonna come get his pussy-ass, and he’s going to jail!” Sometimes volume worked, sometimes it completely backfired. It was impossible to tell ahead of time. He knew the punk would either come in or come after him. Either way, it would be the end of the line for him. He was tired of chasing these punks around the city. There had to be a better way.
He opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out his beloved marbleized pipe. There was some bud left to smoke in it, ashy and resin-surrounded. He lit it and sucked the smoke in. His mind unwound, the film coming off the roll, the adhesive evaporating. The smoke was good, easily cutting into Easy’s mind. It took over his brain and allowed it to operate on highly-trained auto-pilot.
With the pipe now filled with only white ashes, he threw it in the bath tub, a fitting grave for an old friend. His bones creaked as he walked out of his bathroom, through his living room, with its carpet full of poorly-aimed bullets, through his foyer, out of his apartment door, out of the building, and into the chilly air of a Hell’s Kitchen night.
Easy knew, then, that it would be a long time until he got back there, if at all. He didn’t glance longingly back at the old building, despite all the memories of windows busted by bullets, blood-stained carpeting, holes in the walls, and weeks-old Chinese food containers and empty pizza boxes. That was all, immediately, in his past and he didn’t care to return to any of it any time soon, in any way at all. The rain, ever present these days, couldn’t wash it away, either.
The rain felt good, though. It felt like the first day of spring in Central Park. Clean. It washed away all the blood, all the New York City dirt and grime. It rinsed clean the filmy filth of the thousands of case files down through the years, the lives lost, the crying voices down through the wind-tunnel of time that comprised his life.
The rain pattered the bounty-hunter badge hanging from his neck. He snatched it off and threw it onto the asphalt. The rain pelted his black leather jacket and seeped through every piece of fabric clinging to his body. Worthless, he took them off, too, and left them on the sidewalk. Naked, he walked down and disappeared into the subway, clutching his last possession, a Metrocard, in his fist.
On the train, he could feel the staring, but it couldn’t penetrate his own locked gaze, focused on nothing and everything at the same time. He heard the clacking of the tracks beneath the train, and the one thing he knew for sure was that he was going home. It was all he cared about.